In Jesus’ parable of the sower, some of the seed falls on the path. The path is a well-used and recognized walkway around or through the garden. If you step off the path, you pack down the prepared soil, so you are supposed to stay on the path. Anyone who walks through the garden without using the path is a troublemaker and trespasser.
You can probably see some parallels already. The old way is the right way, the only right way. The traditions and values of the past are sacred. Don’t mess with what has always been. If you want to be recognized and valued, you have to stay on the path.
The problem, of course, is that the path isn’t very receptive to the message/seed. It is not prepared to receive anything new. In fact, it is hardened against any change. You can talk all day about grace and the love of God in some churches and among some people and no one will respond. No one expects to learn something new, so they don’t.
I remember, from my first church, how some people would sit in the back, in the pew they had used for decades, cross their arms over their chests and wait for the sermon to be done. There seemed to be no way to get the message through to them. They simply were not interested. They had been in church all their lives and what they had learned in the past was good enough for the future.
Traditions are not bad. In fact, they are usually just the definition of “how we do things.” But traditions can certainly stifle any good news. Most churches and organizations make traditions quite quickly. Even newer groups settle to regular styles and perspectives. Doing something different is uncomfortable.
The message of grace doesn’t fit well into most church traditions. Oh, they use the word and they hold it high. But I have watched as the eyes glass over in some groups when I talk about a relationship with Jesus. Relationships are messy and personal and unpredictable. They really don’t fit into tradition because each one is new and special. Jesus interacts with each person in a unique way.
So the message falls on the trodden path. Never mind that the message was there before the path. This is the true gospel! God loves you and provides all you need in the person of Jesus Christ. He wants you to trust in the person and work of Jesus. That’s not a new message. That’s the first and foundational message of the gospel.
But, over the years, the gospel has become trodden under the feet of so many and their ways. Yes, they say, trust Jesus, but you have to be a member of our church; or you have to be baptized our way; or you have to avoid certain activities and lifestyles; or you have to start doing something. It goes on and on. There’s good soil under the path, but it is so packed down from the traditions and policies and doctrines that it cannot receive the seed.
That’s why the grace message seems new. It reveals the heart of God apart from all the human additions and traditions. I can’t tell you how many people have said that they never heard this message in their church. They wonder how it could be true when the church doesn’t share it. But it is not a new message and, when you begin to understand, Scripture opens up in wonderful ways. So many have said that Scripture makes sense now that they understand grace. That’s because you can see the message of the Scripture without the smoke of the traditions.
But we’ve never done it that way before! Yes we have. Before all the stuff was added; before all the people with their human interpretations started telling us what to put on the message; before the path forgot that good soil should bear real fruit. This was the message the disciples took to the world.
God loves you so much that He provided the way of salvation and sanctification and glory through His own work in Jesus on the cross. He knows all about you, your compromises and failures and fears. He still loves you and calls you to Himself. In Him you will find wholeness and peace and victory.
Jesus is the only real answer.
Jesus is the only message of grace.